EU hits back at British media over flag flap
The European Commission hit back Friday at the "lunacy" of British newspaper reports accusing Brussels of fining a university for failing to fly the European Union flag.
The EU's executive arm denied imposing a £56,477 (63,200-euro) fine on the University of Northampton for not displaying the EU flag on a billboard to indicate that the commission was co-funding a project at the school.
"Whatever flagpole some people hoist their flags on, it's not a European flag that we want to be waving above any kind of project. It's total lunacy these kind of stories," said Ton van Lierop, a commission spokesman.
But he acknowledged that any project under 500,000 euros that receives money from the European Regional Development Fund must indicate the EU's participation in a brochure or website.
The rules require that the EU's contribution be displayed on billboards for projects above 500,000 euros, which is not unusual to see in highway or building projects across the 27-nation EU.
If the EU's participation is omitted, then a project can lose two percent of its funding, which national authorities can then use for other plans within the country.
Van Lierop stressed that it is up to national authorities, not Brussels, to decide whether a benefactor can be stripped of funds for failing to follow the rules.
Britain's Express newspaper said the University of Northampton was hit by a "huge fine" for failing to fly the blue EU flag with its circle of 12 yellow stars.
"Only for bigger projects, we ask that on the billboard during the building works that it's indicated this project will be co-funded by the EU," Van Lierop told a news briefing.
"And once it is finished there should be a little plaque. You shouldn't wave a big flag or whatever above a project," he said. "That's nonsense."
© 2011 AFP